Saturday, 20 November 2010

The tipping point

Statistics suggest that during the next twelve months, the “tipping point” will be reached where off-trade beer sales exceed on-trade sales. Currently, the off-trade accounts for 46% of beer sales, but the report claims that, by 2018, 70% of beer sales will be in the off-trade,and a mere 30% in the on-trade. And I can’t say I’m surprised. The latest stats from the BBPA show a 7.8% decline in year-on-year beer sales in the past quarter, and a 44% decline since 1997. That is not an “adjustment”, it is a slow-motion car crash. Maybe the Magnet and the Marble and the Baum are doing fine, but the pub trade in general is falling off a cliff. And CAMRA’s typical concentration on a limited number of favourite venues means that many of its members - and many beer bloggers - seem oblivious to the wider decline.

No doubt some will accuse me of having a gloomy outlook, but you can’t argue with the cold hard facts.


  1. So CAMRA can be blamed for pub closures as well can they?

  2. No, but they are deluding themselves in thinking that all is well in their cosy little world.

  3. That's funny, I could have sworn that CAMRA are actively involved in campaigning against pub closures. What would you have them do different?

  4. Mudgie knows this full well Ed. His own CAMRA Branch are always discussing this and writing about it.

    Also, clearly he thinks that CAMRA peeps should frequent the unsaveable and spend their hard earned there, rather than ensure by their custom, good pubs remain that way.

  5. Martin, Cambridge22 November 2010 at 22:13

    I'm with Curmudgeon on this - I visit Manchester regularly for the solid locals, where I get a proper mix of customer, as well as the beer exhibition pub, which attracts a very specific type of custom e.g. the Pineapple and Armoury rather than the Crown. It's the Robbie and Holts pub you'll miss most in ten years time.

  6. As Tandy knows, I have never advocated CAMRA members or anyone else making a policy of visiting little-used pubs in an almost certainly doomed effort to save them. From an individual's point of view, it makes sense to visit the pubs you find most congenial and thus through giving them your business helping them succeed and stay in business.

    The point I am making is that within CAMRA (as reflected in both official publications and the views of individual members) there seems to be a lack of recognition of the scale of the disaster that has overtaken the pub trade. All too often, closures are blamed in a narrowly-focused way on reasons such as "it was keg" or "it was full of chavs" or "restrictive covenant" rather than on wider social trends. Those might indeed be the reasons why Pub A has closed instead of Pub B; they are not the reasons why 20,000 pubs have closed nationwide and on-trade beer volumes have more than halved.

    Some of these changes, such as the decline of heavy industry and its associated communities, are something you can do nothing about. Others, such as the smoking ban and the generalised demonisation of even moderate alcohol consumption, are much more directly susceptible to official policy.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval. See here for details of my comment policy.